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The Last Boomer? ^ | May 9, 2012 | Michael Medved

Posted on 05/09/2012 5:35:32 AM PDT by Kaslin

If Mitt Romney succeeds in his quest for the presidency, the media will focus on his status as the first Mormon in the White House. But it’s even more significant that he’d represent the last of another controversial cohort: the final Baby Boomer to occupy the Oval Office, or even to top the ticket of a major political party.

After more than twenty years of dominating the national political scene, the narcissistic children of the ‘60s finally prepare to amble toward retirement, leaving the nation’s highest office to leaders from less polarized and self-righteous generations. Ironically, the Boomers’ last hurrah in the presidential arena will almost certainly come from a starchy straight arrow utterly untouched by weed or Woodstock, rock ‘n roll or rebellion, or other celebrated themes of his turbulent counterparts.

Of course, Hillary Clinton could confound Mitt’s status as the Last of the Boomers by breaking her pledge to eschew electoral politics and making a presidential race of her own in 2016 or thereafter. Even if she delayed her candidacy till 2020, she’d be only 73 at the time of the election – just a year older than John McCain in 2008, and four years younger than Ron Paul this year. Nevertheless, friends of the Secretary of State believe she’s serious in her determination to pursue other paths of public service and personal fulfillment.

There’s also the possibility that Jeb Bush, the former Governor of Florida, could return to the political lists to pursue the presidency and to redeem his family’s honor, but his age and personal history make his identification with the ‘60s generation somewhat questionable. While sociologists Neil Howe and William Strauss identify Baby Boomers as those born between 1943 and 1960, a younger member of that group like Jeb (born in 1953) would have missed out on most of the defining experiences of the era. For instance, President Nixon announced an end to the Vietnam draft before Jeb even graduated from prep school in 1971 – and when Barack Obama, by the way, was only ten.

The high school Class of ’65 – the graduating class of Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Dan Quayle, and me – comprised the very heart of the Baby Boom generation. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush may have both graduated in 1964, but it was in January 1965 that Time magazine ran a famous cover story on “TODAY’S TEENAGERS” with the hopeful subtitle “On the Fringe of a Golden Era.”

That article focused on my own senior class at Palisades High School in Los Angeles, and more than a decade later provided the basis for my bestselling book (and later an NBC TV series), What Really Happened to the Class of ’65? The distinguishing characteristic of our moment in history involved sudden, whiplash change that afflicted the country just as we made the always fraught transition from high school to college. Marijuana and psychedelic drugs remained extremely rare (if not altogether unknown) during our high school years, but became thoroughly ubiquitous shortly after we arrived at university. The Vietnam War enjoyed overwhelming, nearly unanimous public support when we got high school diplomas in June 1965, but within two years the rising draft calls made the conflict massively unpopular on university campuses. The Watts riots paralyzed Southern California within weeks of our high school graduation, followed by a seemingly endless series of other urban explosions over the next five years, with campus unrest and even bloody confrontations disrupting the nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher education.

Nevertheless, some prophets of the New Age saw all the turmoil as both hopeful and helpful. In 1970, a professor I knew casually at Yale wrote a massive bestseller called The Greening of America, proclaiming “a great change” among “the bright, sensitive children of the affluent middle class.” Specifically, Charles Reich located that change in “the college class of 1969, which entered as freshmen in the fall of 1965” – in other words Romney’s class, and mine. “There is a revolution coming,” Professor Reich solemnly proclaimed. “It will originate with the individual and with culture and it will change the political structure only as its final act… At the heart of everything is what we shall call a change of consciousness. This means a ‘new head’ – a new way of living – a new man.” A year earlier, my law school classmate Hillary Rodham had given a commencement speech to her class at Wellesley (prominently featured in LIFE magazine) in which she similarly referred to our generational quest for “a more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating mode of living.”

No wonder Barack Obama managed to beat her in 2008 by appealing in part to the rising national exhaustion over relentless navel gazing and incurable self-importance on the part of the Boomer generation. Because he counted as some 14 years younger than a typical member of the Class of ’65, and because he spent a significant portion of his childhood abroad, Senator Obama seemed untainted by the ancient and increasingly irrelevant divisions between hippies and straights, SDS’ers and frat boys, New Politics activists who fretted over our “sick society” and reflexive love-it-or-leave-it patriots. In his second book, The Audacity of Hope, the future president expressed his weariness with the endless confrontations between counter cultural and traditional values. Senator Obama wrote: “In the back and forth between Clinton and Gingrich, and in the elections of 2000 and 2004, I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the baby boom generation – a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago – played out on the national stage.”

He promised to transcend such pointless, paralyzing cultural battles and to launch a new era of post-partisan cooperation that would unite all elements of society across ideological and even racial lines. Instead, most Americans now view the Republic as more deeply, destructively divided than ever before. The greatest disappointments and disasters of the Obama presidency all stem from his undeniable failure to deliver his promise to pursue peace.

And what about Romney?

How could The Last Boomer possibly lead the nation beyond the vicious fights over values that actually began during his most formative years and, in one way or another, shaped nearly all his generational counterparts?

Virtually all of the leading liberal lights to emerge from the ‘60s generation embraced the attitudes of campus rebels and the anti-war movement of the Vietnam era, including Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Howard Dean and countless others. Their conservative opponents (Dan Quayle, George W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, George Pataki, John Boehner) stoutly rejected the gauzy ideals of the youth culture and embraced the values of earlier generations, but in most cases only did so after some experimentation with 1960’s approaches to lifestyle and personal values. Newt Gingrich (of all people) freely confessed to his youthful enthusiasm for marijuana, and George W. Bush famously and eloquently declared that “when I was young and stupid I was young and stupid.”

Romney, on the other hand, never so much rejected the ‘60s as he remained altogether isolated from that era’s ferment and torment. He never reacted negatively to the high profile fights over sex, drugs, and foreign policy that characterized the country during his university years because, for the most part, he never experienced them. He spent his freshman year (September 1965 to June 1966) at Stanford but disliked the increasingly politicized campus atmosphere and interrupted his college career to pursue his traditional Mormon obligation as a young missionary in France. Debates over the draft never seemed to concern him because he received a “ministerial deferment” like most Mormon missionaries and married his wife Ann (who he’d pursued since high school) in March 1969, within weeks of his return to the United States. Their son Tagg arrived the next year, with Mitt and Ann living in a basement apartment and pursuing their undergraduate degrees at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah – a world away from the activism that affronted most students of their era in elite campuses like Yale, Harvard, Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin.

When the Romneys moved to Harvard for Mitt’s simultaneous MBA and law school program they were raising two little boys (with three more to come) and already leading a deeply conservative family life that allowed little connection with the fervent activism that continued to characterize the campus. Almost alone of famous Boomers, Mitt Romney never let his hair, sideburns, beard or moustache grow out in some outrageously dated and embarrassing manner. In photographs from the period he remains disconcertingly recognizable – the same self-possessed, clean cut, immaculately groomed figure he presents today, despite his occasional campaign trail efforts to make himself seem more earthy with his incongruous choice of jeans.

While Romney’s isolation from the trends that defined most others in that famous Class of ’65 might make him a dubious choice as the final presidential candidate from his generation, his distinctive experience could provide special appeal to the bulk of his fellow Boomers. Many (if not most) among the huge population bulge associated with that age group actually missed the cultural revolution known as “the ‘60s”: they fought in the Vietnam War rather than protesting it, they got jobs rather than getting high, they saw themselves as flag-wavers more than freaks. In addition, tens of millions of Boomers who may have taken a more unconventional approach back in the day have come to feel more ashamed than nostalgic about their youthful indulgence.

If Mitt Romney can unite all those who consistently shunned the counterculture with all those who once flirted with its values but now look back on those callow notions with disdain, he could easily win a majority of his fellow Boomers and, with them, the election. Romney can never pretend that he was once “young and stupid” like George W. Bush, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We rightly respect him because he was never stupid. But it may be harder to forgive the fact that he was never young.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Politics/Elections
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To: Vermont Lt
But, Obama is a throwback to the heavy duty boomers. For us “tail enders” he would have found himself with his underwear pulled up over his shoulders.

Gee, I LOVE hasty generalizations. They're usually wrong!!

I'm an early boomer and have been conservative all my life. How does that fit into your "tarring with a broad brush"??

The fact is that every large group is comprised of individuals. Some fit your perceptions, others don't. I guess you haven't figured that part out with all your intellectual elitist snobbishness. We're all different and hasty generalizations just make you look ill-informed.

41 posted on 05/10/2012 1:40:09 PM PDT by DustyMoment
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To: HarryCrowel
And of course their kids (the precious baby boomers) criticized them for that.

Please give specific examples. A LOT of the accusations surrounding boomers actually belong elsewhere, so, I'd like to see what you are talking about.

42 posted on 05/10/2012 1:42:46 PM PDT by DustyMoment
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To: DustyMoment

Hey, old guy....take your Geritol. Calm down.

Of course I know that there were conservative members of the baby boomers. But your whining proves my point.

You know EXACTLY what I am talking about. Look at your peers and tell me they are an easy group to deal with.

You obviously are the exception. Except for the whiney part.

43 posted on 05/10/2012 2:42:35 PM PDT by Vermont Lt (I just don't like anything about the President. And I don't think he's a nice guy.)
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To: Vermont Lt

Ok, what whining?

You keep going after hasty generalizations and don’t give specifics.

As for your arrogance, just remember that your day is coming.

And YOU will be the “whiney old guy”!

Asd for Geritol, I don’t take it. I have type II diabetes from Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam and can’t take a lot of crap like that. A Lt. might know something about warfare.

44 posted on 05/10/2012 3:37:56 PM PDT by DustyMoment
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To: DustyMoment

The whining about my post. You are still doing it.

Thanks for your service.

Really, I am kidding you. You are not an old guy. But you have to admit that some of your hippie cohorts were a little off the reservation.

Now go get some rest.

(just kidding, again.)

45 posted on 05/10/2012 6:09:05 PM PDT by Vermont Lt (I just don't like anything about the President. And I don't think he's a nice guy.)
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To: Vermont Lt

I had no hippie cohorts. The hippie movement was overblown and comprised of a minority of boomers.

However, the press loved them more than the rest of the boomer class.

Thus, the enduring press, urban myth and adulation for a movement that was the forerunner of today’s OWS “heroes”.

46 posted on 05/10/2012 9:40:15 PM PDT by DustyMoment
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To: DustyMoment

Ok you win. The Boomers are the most wonderful generation ever.

Evidently you have not done much research on demographics. The science of demographics is, by definition, generalization of groups of similar folks.

Go do some reading, and we can have a mature discussion about “generations.”

47 posted on 05/11/2012 1:13:37 PM PDT by Vermont Lt (I just don't like anything about the President. And I don't think he's a nice guy.)
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To: Biggirl

Well I was born in 62 and I have to say we had the best music, concerts, Camaro’s and Reagan was the first President I voted for.....Life was really good back then......

48 posted on 05/11/2012 1:19:37 PM PDT by geege
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To: jocon307
And that’s barely even close at all. They were/are both Veeps and not even born in the 30s.

It’s weird, isn’t it? 10 years of births and yet not one of those millions (tens of millions?) of people ever lead this country.

I wonder if there are other instances of that earlier in our history.

My parents were older than yours, born in 1926, but they didn’t have children until the late 50s, rather old for that time.

I know, that is something, they barely have a toehold on the leadership at all. It seems like in the Presidency, we went directly from the World War II generation to the Baby Boomers.
49 posted on 05/11/2012 7:25:39 PM PDT by Nowhere Man (General James Mattoon Scott, where are you when we need you? We need a regime change.)
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To: ansel12
If you want to see “silent generation” (born 1925 to 1945)leadership, then start running the birth dates of the famous Hippies, bands, musicians, activists, etc, of the 1960s and early 1970s, when boomers Sarah Palin and Obama, were little kids.

You have a point, IIRC, Abbie Hoffman was born in 1936, Jane Fonda in 1937,Gloria Steinem in 1934, Charlie Manson in 1934, William Ayers in 1944 (very tail end I know), BErnadine Dohrn in 1942.
50 posted on 05/11/2012 7:34:36 PM PDT by Nowhere Man (General James Mattoon Scott, where are you when we need you? We need a regime change.)
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To: geege
Well I was born in 62 and I have to say we had the best music, concerts, Camaro’s and Reagan was the first President I voted for.....Life was really good back then......

Born in 1966, I hear ya!
51 posted on 05/11/2012 7:36:48 PM PDT by Nowhere Man (General James Mattoon Scott, where are you when we need you? We need a regime change.)
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To: Nowhere Man

Wait till you look at the musicians, John Denver, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Peter Paul & Mary, Grace Slick, Neil Young , Beatles, Van Morrison, Joan Baez, Jerry Garcia, Pete Townsend, Joe Cocker, Judy Collins, Jimmy Page, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, and on and on and on....

52 posted on 05/11/2012 8:17:38 PM PDT by ansel12 ( Obama, Romney,"Eurasia" "Eastasia" "Oceania" I can't keep up with the players anymore.)
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To: Vermont Lt
The Boomers are the most wonderful generation ever.

I didn't say that, either. If you're going to jump from extreme to extreme, DON'T put words in my mouth!

When you read the perceptions that people have about boomers, the following things come out - we're the most selfish generation ever because, in the 60s, we voted to bankrupt SS so we could have LOTS and LOTS of taxpayer provided goodies. And, yet, if you research the demographics (and do a little math), when LBJ declared his War on Poverty that blew the lock off of SS, the oldest boomers were just reaching voting age. We didn't have any impact on SS other than paying the bill, like everyone else.

People often overlook the fact that MANY of the ideas that evolved into the radical philosophies of the hippies were outgrowths of the 50s' Beatniks. Hippies weren't even original in that, they just co-opted and extended the ideas of the Beatniks.

Then, we are told that all we ever did was take and contribute nothing to society. But, desktop computers, cell phones, VCRs, DVDs, CDs, and the Internet are but a few of our contributions. I know first hand because I worked on many of them.

All we are ever told is that we are the generation of the hippies. Perhaps so, but most of us weren't self-involved hippies - just the likes of Nancy Pelosi and the Rapist-in Chief, Bubba Clinton. Fast forward 30 years; how will Gen X & Yers feel about being blamed for the OWS crowd?? Is that to be their big contribution to society?? Given the DBM coverage OWS has received, they can count on it!!

53 posted on 05/11/2012 10:04:53 PM PDT by DustyMoment
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To: DustyMoment

No, I did not say any of those things. Go read some demographic history about the characteristics of eac 22 year generational cycle. It’s actually pretty interesting.

Stop taking the comments so personally. Do some research about the subject. Believe it or not, you are but a tiny, tiny, spec in a large pool.

54 posted on 05/12/2012 5:40:35 AM PDT by Vermont Lt (I just don't like anything about the President. And I don't think he's a nice guy.)
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To: Vermont Lt
No, I did not say any of those things.

So, you did not send that line to me? Nor did you say the following?

Ok you win. The Boomers are the most wonderful generation ever.

My bad, I must have misread them elsewhere. I know that you did not say any of the rest of the things I covered in my rant but, those are common misperceptions about boomers that I frequently encounter here at FR. That's why I responded as I did.

You tell me not to take things so personally but, in my experience on this website, everytime someone posts a generational story, baby boomers are characterized as being the worst, most useless, selfish nonentities that ever walked the face of the earth. So, not believing that to be true, I am going to take it personally. Whether by choice, or by a circumstance of birth, when people take a broad brush to tar all boomers, it includes me.

Finally, demographics are just numbers and numbers can be turned, twisted and manupulated to show whatever anyone wants to show. When it comes to "statistics" such as demographics, those are the very first things I discount. I look more at history and behavior.

In the mid- to late-50s, the Beatniks were a relatively significant movement in many of the major cities of the eastern seaboard (NYC and Boston to name two major centers) as well as LA and San Francisco on on the west coast. They may have spread as far north as Seattle, but I am not certain of that. From the coffeehouses of the 50s, many of the Beatniks graduated from college, then took their radical ideas of "Question Everything" as well as their embrace of socialism into college campuses where they became professors and assistant professors; disseminating their ideas to the future hippies of the day. This is where the hippies acquired a lot of their radical ideas. In the 50s, socialism was considered a "trendy" philosophy that sucked in many elites of the day. The McCarthy hearings caught up many Hollyweird celebrities who had no clue what socialism was about, but joined up because it was a trendy thing to do.

The Beatniks did not becaome a movement the size of the hippie movement because the social mores of the 50s kept them relatively suppressed in public. However, those same mores did not control what they did in college classrooms and that's where the hippies were exposed to them. The rest we know.
55 posted on 05/14/2012 11:08:41 AM PDT by DustyMoment
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